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Hanging of "Matt" Tarpey

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:22 pm    Post subject: Hanging of "Matt" Tarpey Reply with quote

"Matt" Tarpey, it seems, who was one of the oldest residents of Monterey, sold a piece of land to one Nicholson, and after the sale Tarpey went upon the land and cut from it cord wood which he sold. This caused trouble between the two men, and Tarpey, nursing his anger, went to the ranch, March 14th, 1878, for the purpose, it was believed, of killing Nicholson. His intended victim was absent, but meeting Mrs. Nicholson, either accidentally or purposely, he killed her, seven large buckshot entering her body, one piercing her heart. She was a woman highly respected and her funeral, two days later, at Watsonville, was attended by carriages and horsemen, over a mile in length.

The citizens were under an intense state of anger and passing resolutions at Watsonville on the evening of March 15, condemning the murderer. On the following day a large number of citizens began assembling at Monterey. In the meantime Tarpey had been arrested and lodged in the Monterey jail and the purpose of this large assemblage of people was easily anticipated. The sheriff took no extra precautions whatever to protect his prisoner, in fact he was their accomplice, for late in the afternoon of March 17th, the vigilantes seized the sheriff upon the street and binding him with ropes, left him under a small guard.

The citizens then hurrying to the prison began breaking in the wooden doors with a sledge hammer, the exact time, 4:30 o'clock, as telegraphed to all parts of the state. Three or four of them then entered the jail, they broke down the iron door leading to Tarpey's cell and binding him with ropes they brought him out and placed him upon a wagon. As they brought Tarpey from the jail, the wife and mother stood at the door and with tears streaming from their eyes, pleaded with the mob, not to hurt Tarpey.

Leaving the jail, Tarpey, under escort of about three hundred heavily armed men in buggies and on horseback, was taken to an oak tree a short distance beyond the present Hotel Del Monte grounds. The doomed man was then seated upon a box on the wagon, informed that his time had come, and if he wished, he could make his last speech. Tarpey, who had himself taken part in many early executions, for nearly thirty minutes begged for his life. At the end of that time they placed a new unstretched rope around his neck, one end fastened to the limb overhead, and driving the wagon from under him, he was slowly strangled to death, his knees touching the earth because of the stretching of the rope. Leaving the body hanging, the party returned to Monterey. Later Coroner Pardee went after the body and conveying it to the town, gave it to his wife. An inquest was held, but no arrests were made and thus ended an illegal execution that is today remembered.
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